In the weeks leading up to opening the shop, I had a conversation with a rep. that went something along these lines:
Them: Steer clear of local authors.
Them: You’ll be inundated with them. They’ll come in with their books that they want you to stock. And you have to ask yourself, why are they touting their own books? I’ll tell you shall I, it's because they are not very good.
I immediately had issues with everything about this view of local authors, and I thought it was quite a nasty thing to say – and I made my feelings as clear as the rep. had made theirs.
Here I was, just starting out on my bookselling journey and that amount of negativity was not something I needed. Nor was it something that I would agree with. As far as I was concerned, all authors essentially want the same thing: to see their book on a bookshelf in a bookshop. And I had both shelves and a shop. Some of the conversations I have with local authors about their experiences in other shops both sadden and anger me at times.
Even before I had opened I had books posted to me and pushed through the letterbox by local authors, and there were always lovely notes included, requesting me to consider stocking their books. And right from the off it was an easy choice. YES.
Why wouldn’t I?
Bookshops are about browsing and discovering books and for every big name author that has made it, there are hundreds and thousands of others that simply need the chance and opportunity. How would I know if their books would sell or not if I didn’t have them on the shelves?
Three years on and I have had over 120 local author titles in my shop and I’m hugely proud of the fact. I am passionate about supporting these writers who are too numerous to mention individually. I’m proud that I’m not dismissive of local authors. And I’m proud that I don’t take a huge percentage either. I’m proud to be part of the writing community.
I don’t claim to read them all. But books are a personal thing and we all have our own likes and dislikes, and by having a wider range of books – of all genres – on the shelves, it gives my customers more choice.
The first local author novel I read was the utterly brilliant Potkin and Stubbs by Sophie Green, which I credit with being responsible for me reading as many children’s books as I do now. Sophie took a gamble on me by holding the launch of the third in the Potkin and Stubbs trilogy right here in my shop. A mere three days after I opened. And for that I will always be truly thankful.
It is a local author title that has been my biggest selling in three years (At the End of the Rainbow by Vibeke Flatman). I have customers chomping at the bit for the third book about the witch trials in Suffolk by L. M. West. I have chosen (and loved) The Penguin Killer by Ste Sharp for my home book group, and I’ve been absolutely blown away by both of James Jenkins’ books (Parochial Pigs and Sun Bleached Scarecrows). My review of his second publication features on its back cover.
There is a book about the bargemen of Ipswich by Barry Girling that always sells. Rob Ramsden, Julia Groves, Vassiliki Tzomaka and Matt Robertson have an incredible range of children’s books between them; all sell well in the shop.
I’ve done events for and with local author extraordinaire Beverley Birch, and in December on my four Late Night Thursday events all but a few of the 26 or so authors I had in the shop were local authors.
Local authors – I salute each and every one of you.
The Dial Lane booksellers provide books for our audiences at SBL events.
More about the Ipswich shop here: https://www.diallanebooks.co.uk/